Science is a fickle friend. If it wasn't for science you'd be reading this on a cave wall, but the same field that's responsible for the miracles of the modern world is also dedicated to ruining all of life's best vices.
In the new truTV series Adam Ruins Everything (Tuesdays at 10/9c), host Adam Conover goes to great lengths to dispel widespread misconceptions about everything we take for granted, much the same way scientists won't rest until everything we once thought was good for us is revealed to unleash destruction. For example ...
5Red Wine Isn't Good For Your Heart After All
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As comedy writers, we're well aware of both the benefits and the dangers of alcohol consumption. There are only so many times we can shotgun Milwaukee's Best on a Tuesday afternoon before we can't look at ourselves in the mirror anymore, and that's where red wine comes in.
For years, the media has been telling us that red wine is basically a health food. Most of its supposed benefits come from a special sciency food thing called resveratrol, which sounds like an overseas Tylenol knockoff but supposedly helps prevent heart disease, mental decline, blood clots, and strokes. So not only will popping the cork on that cabernet sauvignon make you feel classy no matter how stained the ratty old Air Supply T-shirt you're wearing is -- it's practically the same as hitting the gym. Why would you ever drink anything but wine?
Because whiskey is delicious?
Well, in a shocking revelation about a product that frequently comes in boxes so hobos can get blackout drunk to forget their lives, resveratrol isn't quite what your alcoholic aunt hyped it up to be. In a 16-year study conducted in one of Italy's wine regions (because, to our surprise, Italy has non-wine regions) researchers found that resveratrol levels "do not show any apparent protective association with disease and markers of disease in humans and are not associated with lifespan." They also said a lot of big words and weird math things that we're too dumb to understand, but their conclusion is about as clear as you can get. You'd have as much luck trying to prevent heart disease with a nightly glass of red wine as you would with a nightly bowl of Bugles drenched in butterscotch.
Or just a Mason jar full of butterscotch.
Red wine in small quantities does still have some health benefits, but it's not a magical heart elixir that you can pair with your Kraft mac and cheese to eliminate the downsides of eating Kraft mac and cheese. And "small quantities" is the key phrase there. You can't substitute your nightly jog with two bottles of wine and a cheese plate and expect to live to a ripe old age. Although at a certain point you have to start questioning quantity versus quality.
4Dark Chocolate Is Actually Pretty Terrible For You Too
Dark chocolate is a delicious junk food we've long tried to justify through scientific study. Obviously, eating it provides a smug sense of superiority over people who prefer milk chocolate like a bunch of damn children, but dark chocolate lovers want physical superiority as well. You probably saw your chubbier friends and colleagues share this New York Times article about chocolate's ability to improve your memory, and dark chocolate in particular has long been touted as a food that's good for your heart, thanks to the presence of another goofy food word, flavanols.
In addition to being the name of Flavor Flav's obscure experimental album, flavanols might be legitimately good for you -- the science is still up in the air. But whether or not they're good is irrelevant to your chocolate intake, because eating the screen you're reading this on would give you about as much flavanol as chocolate does.
Potentially less delicious, though.
Flavanols taste like bitter garbage, so they're pretty much entirely destroyed during the chocolate-making process and replaced with delicious fat and sugar.
So how did all these pro-dark-chocolate studies come about? Well, the memory study was performed on a batch of highly concentrated cocoa powder that was carefully selected for research ... by chocolatier Mars Inc., which funded the study in the hopes of drumming up some good chocolate press. That's like saying banana cream pie is good for you because you studied the health benefits of bananas. This is a problem with lots of studies involving chocolate, because while flavanols can be found in many foods, the funding for flavanol research tends to come from candy companies that Willy Wonka would loathe.
Answer the meme's question!
To be fair to the researchers, they were appalled that the media took their results to mean "Everyone should eat more chocolate, because it's a miracle food!" But at times science seems to have a blind spot for chocolate. Another oft-cited study, also funded by Mars, found that a tribe of indigenous peoples in Panama drink up to five cups of cocoa a day and have consistently low blood pressure. Except that's total nonsense, as another researcher found that their cocoa consumption was vastly overstated, like that guy in your college dorm who was obviously lying about his sexual exploits.
Like red wine, small amounts of dark chocolate can be healthy. But the only reason it's been declared awesome while other fatty and sugary junk foods are decried is that dark chocolate comes in fancy packaging that costs a couple extra bucks, which is then presumably turned around to fund dubious studies. Way to accept bribes and then debunk the resulting studies, science!